Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ajin, vol. 10 review

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Ajin, vol. 10 (Good Afternoon, 2016-17), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.

At the end of the last volume, Kei had decided to give his mother a phone call before disappearing for good. While the defeat of the Ajin Collection Agency at the hands of Satou's group probably means that his family's phone isn't being tapped anymore, Kei figures it would be safer to call the hospital his sister is being kept at. He pretends to be a nonexistent uncle, and when his mother gets on the line, she berates him for joining forces with Satou. He tries to correct her, and she then asks how he could be so stupid as to try to go against someone so much more powerful than him. She tells him to go ahead and run away, maybe drown himself in the ocean and wash up somewhere else that's safer. He hangs up, saying that she's acting just exactly the way she always does. His mother returns to Eriko's room, and then has to explain why her son, the "cold" one, is fighting the terrorists. Their mother says that Kei takes after her, and Eriko takes after their estranged father. When Kei was 9, he said he wanted to become a doctor in order to help find a cure for Eriko. His mother had been an ER doctor at the time, and she knew what was needed for getting a medical degree. There was no choice in Kei remaining friends with Keito. It's not that Kei is cold-hearted - he's just pragmatic and focused. Eventually, Eriko starts worrying about her brother's fate, and cries herself to sleep. Her mother quietly adds that unfortunately, Kei has a bit too much of his father in him, too, and that he'll probably do something stupid, like not run away. Regardless, she hopes he'll keep himself alive.

("You blame Kei for abandoning Keito, because Kei's trying to save you means that you're partly responsible for all this, right?")

Then we get a flashback for Yuu Tosaki. He'd tried proposing to his girlfriend, Ai (hence the joke title - You and I), and she'd turned him down, in part because she wasn't ready, and partly because she didn't want anyone accusing her of marrying him for his money. He'd stated that he'd do anything for her, and she tried to get him to promise not to do anything bad. Now she's in a coma in the hospital, and Tosaki leaves the engagement ring with her before going out to the parking lot, where his junior, Sokabe, is waiting for him. Sokabe wants Tosaki to step down from his post in the Ajin collection group, but Yuu refuses. Sokabe tries to threaten him for hiding the existence of two of the Ajin - Kou and Youko. Tosaki just glares at him, replying, "Who knew that gutter rats had dreams of greatness." Tosaki gets in the car with Youko, who comments that he's still going to keep fighting. He swallows a handful of breath mints and tells her to drive to the safe house.

(Suzuki tells Ogura that the last 40 pages of Harry Potter are the best.)

Then we get another flashback, this one for Ogura when he was still working at the Ajin research center in the U.S. Turns out that the American approach is vastly different from the Japanese one of torturing, maiming and killing Ajin prisoners. Instead, two of the researchers and two of the subjects are Ajin, and they're all pretty much working together voluntarily. The Ajin all have ankle GPS trackers on them, though. Ogura was brought in recently, and he keeps smoking cigarettes within the non-smoking areas. He's developed a theory regarding Ajin and the black smoke (IBM), saying that it's coming from outer space, and that there are two conditions for someone turning Ajin when they're killed - a strong feeling of "have I lived my entire life already", and a heavy concentration of black smoke in the area. The one Ajin researcher tells him to cut the crap. If he'd wanted fantasy, he'd read Harry Potter. The other, a rare female Asian Ajin named Jun Suzuki, comments that when she first died, she'd been reading Harry Potter and was really anticipating the last 40 pages. Jun has an almost unpleasant happy streak, and she adds that those last 40 pages were great. We're also told that there are 5 known Ajin types in the U.S. The two stranger ones are "furaddo" (flood?) and "narikake." The "furaddo" type seems to have the greater control over ghosts. (Ogura also mentions that he has a large stock of his favorite cigarettes stashed away, and that if he ever runs out of them, he thinks that he's going to die.)

(Ai tells Yuu that she's not going to marry him right now, and that she doesn't want him to do anything bad on her behalf.)

This takes us to a period shortly after Satou participated in the ill-fated Viet Nam exercise to rescue one of the American prisoners of war. Satou is back home, but needs to use a wheelchair because he's missing the leg below his right knee. He spends most of his time in the game arcades, where he's gotten really good at the console machines. When asked, he answers that it's just a matter of constantly plugging in more coins at the Game Over - Continue screen. Later, he's approached by an uncle on his mother's side, who wants him to join as a look-out for his yakuza gang. Satou initially says he's not interested, until one of the dumber-looking thugs mentions that Japan is the home of all the best new games. A few days later, Satou is playing a Gameboy, ignoring what his uncle is saying, when a rival Chinese gang drives up to the building and starts shooting everyone. When the smoke clears, Satou is the only survivor of the carnage - even his Gameboy took a bullet through the screen. He comments that he's lost his meal ticket. 5 years pass, and the Chinese gang leader has finally tracked him down, and has him pinned to a shipping container with knives through his hands. The guy wants revenge, and asks if he has any last words. Satou says "I got high score," then the guy shoots him in the head. A few seconds later, Satou is free and halfway through killing the guy before realizing that he's still alive and his leg is regenerating. He comments that apparently someone put another coin in the machine.

Back in real time, Satou's telling his group that they're going to need to prepare for the last wave in their bid to take over Japan for themselves. But, Tanaka is tired of the killing and wants out. Satou catches him in the hallway of the abandoned building they're camping in, and gives him a hard drive he claims that he found in one of the offices of the Ajin research group when he was wiping them out. Tanaka agrees to look at it, as the two druggie members of the group hide around the corner and smile. The programmer preps some kind of code and puts it on the server to launch.

(Game Over - Continue? "Yes.")

The Japanese government announces a new Ajin research group, tied up with the author that had stated in a previous volume that Ajin are evil and must be destroyed. The chairwoman of the new group vows to protect society from all Ajin. Then, in the safe house, Tosaki and Youko meet up with Kou. Tosaki wants the other two to go into hiding so he can fight Satou by himself. Youko refuses to abandon her boss. Kou wants to keep fighting, too, but is very dismayed to see that the other two have no hope of winning. Suddenly, Kei enters the building like he'd never left. As Kei tries to predict what Satou will do next, Tosaki gets a message that their enemy has announced when the last wave will start - in 19 hours. With no time to get new partners, new weapons or to even develop a plan, Kei states that the only choice is to go full-out and just fight to defeat Satou. Elsewhere, Satou's server prints out "Starting Final Wave" on the monitor.

Summary: This volume has the most amount of information on Ajin so far, and provides backstories on several of the characters. The art is getting better, too, and things are going to explode quickly. Highly recommended. (One more note - one of Tosaki's former bodyguards, the one that wanted out of the job at the beginning of the fight in the Forge building, survived. He was taken to a hospital and handcuffed to the bed. He suddenly woke up, pulled the IV needle from his arm and used it to pick the cuffs. He's last seen stumbling through the hallways to freedom.)

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